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This year has been tough. Should we be letting go of those feelings as we enter a new year?

How can we learn to stop and take a break?

We may be approaching this coming festival season with divided feelings – heavy hearts weighed down by the struggle and uncertainties of the last year, and yet hope for joy and renewal at this time. How are we to make the best of this situation? Here are some relevant questions and responses. For more guidance and suggestions, do have a look at my book: The Five Powers.


How should we best cope with overwhelming feelings of uncertainty and loss of control?

These are certainly times of change, risk and uncertainty.  How can we dance with changing circumstances? Actually we mostly do have an inbuilt capacity to let go and let life carry us, but we tend to forget where it is. We are like passengers on the train of life that keep lugging the  heavy baggage of our concerns. We forget that we can put them down and let the train take us and our luggage. For this we need trust.

Trust is an attitude of mind and heart with which we get up in the morning and meet our day. It is looking at everything with kind eyes. Trust includes acceptance, hope and optimism, but it is more than them, since they can be dependent on things being better, which is not in our hands, unfortunately. Instead it is being ready and able to look mindfully at the truth of our experience moment by moment, and the sense that we can  meet things as they are, even if difficult.  This replaces tendencies for denial,  or escape and we find ourselves like an island in the stormy seas.

We build trust by repeatedly opening the doors and welcoming what comes.  We can do this as a meditative practice, in which we listen to all the voices from within. If  unleasant, like a physical or  emotional difficulty, instead of labelling it as a problem, we see it as part of our life at this unique instant. Same with the pleasant. We listen to those voices like a mother listening to her child.


How can we harness our energy for Christmas this year? 

We can preserve our energy this Christmas, of course, by being a bit moderate in what we consume. A little less can sometimes give us more. But on a deeper level we can let the joy of connecting with others, of the festive season, of simply being alive at this moment, touch us in a deep place. We will be reminded of a default place of joy and well-being, which lies under our changing responses to events. Sometimes it needs us to stop, mindfully  reconnect with and appreciate bodily life flowing within us, rest deeply, and do a restart.


Is it possible to avoid feelings of competitiveness and falling into the trap of comparison culture?

We can hardly help the nagging voices inside us of success and failure, and of  comparing ourselves to others or to ourselves as we want to be or once were. But this can put us under a lot of pressure. Is there another way ? We firstly should not blame ourselves, it is such a basic human tendency. But we can soften those voices a lot, firstly by exposing them, and watching how we get caught in constant measuring, and the pain that this can cause us. We realise that we carry a big boss inside us. Then we can take a step back and see the big picture. The sun rises in the morning never mind our plans and goals. We are carried by life. This may allow us to be much more open, and less tight, around what constitutes success and failure, for example to see that we are effective in ways we didn’t realise. Mother Teresa once said : ‘In this life we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with a great heart’.

We can make a radical shift in our attitude and ask ourselves what can I contribute to this moment, what are the gifts and capacities I can bring to the tasks ahead. It is giving equal weight to the means as to the ends, and the reward will be the relief and joy from contributing rather than judging.

I have been teaching mindfulness and other inner skills  in the corporate world, including helping to wean folk off the bottom line mentality and the pressure of having to constantly measure outcomes. When trust replaces anxiety and stress, and means partly replaces ends, working life becomes much more pleasant and the results can be at least as good.


Do you have some tips on living in the present over the festive period?

What are some simple ways of maintaining mindfulness practices as our days potentially start to get more filled with people?

Mindfulness gets a lot easier if we don’t see it as something that we ought to do, like going to the gym. Instead it can be like arriving back  home after a crazy day, resting in our favourite armchair, and dropping into what our body and mind and heart are telling us. It is remembering to be a human being, not a human doing or a human partying.

We don’t need to set up conditions for mindfulness, such as a certain length of time or a certain posture, but just keep entering a more aware and reflective state of mind. As if there is a question guiding us: ‘what’s really happening right now?’ We can simply observe when we are attracted or pulled towards something we like, or pushed away from something we don’t like. We can notice the arising of moods and states of mind of anger, joy, love and every other feeling. We can take responsibility for our own minds by seeing what is there, letting go of what is unhelpful, and encouraging what is helpful and healthy. Slowly the cacophony in our minds is quietened and we find that it is actually our music.

Again and again we can learn to step out of the movie, to be the audience not just the main actor. We can ease off the pressure to be constantly engaged, or to be glued to screens, and instead watch the candles shining or the shadows on the wall, as in John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s song: Watching The Wheels.


How can we learn to stop and take a break?

The festive season can get pretty full, occupied with partying, consuming and connecting with others. We do need to occasionally stop, collect ourselves together, rejoin our life and come back to our center. One mindful breath may be enough to remind us. Then we can get off the wheel by focusing on our senses, such as lifting up our head from the screen and listening to the birds outside, going out to the garden or the park and just sitting under a tree for some time. Then to stop more deeply we zoom in on one of the senses, such as the experience of the breath in our body or the sound of the birds, getting close and intimate, and letting everything else fade. This kind of resetting the system can become a joyful daily ritual. We can do it for some time every day, but we can also do it throughout the day in small moments, mini-pauses, mini-restarts, like the stars, points of light, that light up the winter days.


This year has been tough. Should we be letting go of those feelings as we enter a new year?

We tend to build narratives and carry with us summaries of what has happened, and this colours  our moods in the present and also what we expect to happen – i.e. more of the same. Can we allow the past to be the past ? Can we forgive ourselves and everyone else and not drag stuff into the present?  All of us can take one big step out of the old and into the new. It is not about denying the past, or forgetting it, but about arriving or landing fully in this moment, as it is. It may be shaped by the past, but like a tree that is shaped by the wind we can stand our ground in the present, allow the shape of things to be as they are,  and live fully in this moment.